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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 28 October 2020
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Just another manic Sunday for RVP and Arsenal

Star turns from Aston Villa’s Irish contingent and three second-half goals from the Gunners provided an enthralling end to the weekend’s top-flight fixtures.

Image: Stephen Pond/EMPICS Sport

Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa

ARSENAL MAY HAVE enjoyed a home draw for their FA Cup fourth-round clash with Aston Villa, but by the time Arsene Wenger’s side took to the field this afternoon, that advantage had been eroded by a week of abuse, recrimination and uncertainty.

Reeling from defeat to Manchester United in the Premier League, a result that dragged a wave of often hysterical outrage from fans and commentators in its wake, consensus insisted this was an Arsenal side at its lowest ebb in nearly a decade.

It was a view only reinforced by a dismal first-half performance that saw the Londoners cede all initiative to the visitors. Emboldened by Arsenal’s evident frailty, it took Villa a little under half an hour to take the lead.

A tempting cross from Robbie Keane found the head of Richard Dunne, who nodded the ball beyond Lukas Fabianksi. Minutes later, it was another Irish talent who turned provider, Stephen Ireland this time using his position at the focal point of a Villa counter-attack to set Darren Bent through on goal. The England international converted from a tight angle to double his side’s advantage.

All twitching jaw muscles and purposeful striding, Arsenal projected a sense of collective determination on their re-emergence for the second half. Their opponents, however, looked like individuals for whom the interval had offered an unwelcome chance for introspection.

Tentative and burdened by their advantage, Villa retreated and allowed themselves to be overrun. A muddle of uncertainty and fear, they conceded a hat-trick of goals within ten minutes, a Theo Walcott effort bookended by a pair of Robin Van Persie penalties.

Alex McLeish may dispute the final goal and claim that Darren Bent’s innocuous, if clumsy, challenge on Laurent Koscielny scarcely merited a match-deciding outcome, but his side displayed neither the conviction nor composure that would have merited a more favourable result.

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